Literacy Tips

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of December 16th

posted Dec 16, 2018, 7:38 PM by Courtney Richardson

From Whole Group to Small Group Instruction
Recently, I had the privilege of modeling lessons for classroom teachers and literacy coaches in Chattanooga, TN. The focus of the training was to show how to increase the effectiveness and efficiency by teaching the same comprehensions strategy during whole group and guided reading lessons. For example, in second grade, I taught a whole-group lesson on vocabulary strategies (module 7) using the picture book, Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant. Then after that 20-minute lesson, I taught the same strategy in a guided reading lesson using a different text at the group’s instructional reading level. Threading the same strategy from whole to small group instruction saves time during the guided reading lesson because you don’t have to model the strategy.
After the lessons, I met with the teachers to reflect on the process. We came to the conclusion that teaching whole class lessons is an efficient way to model a comprehension strategy, but the most important part of the process is supporting the students as they practice the comprehension strategy with a text at their level. Next week I’ll share some of the challenges of teaching a whole-class lesson and some techniques you might try to help solve the problems.

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of December 9th

posted Dec 10, 2018, 4:25 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Dec 10, 2018, 7:00 PM ]

Read, Talk, and Write
The discussion that occurs in a guided reading lesson is critical to developing strategic reading and comprehension. I’ve discovered a wonderful book by Laura Robb that includes dozens of ideas for creating rich conversations in your literacy lessons. In Read, Talk, Write: 35 lessons that teach students to analyze fiction and nonfiction (2017, Corwin) you’ll find prompts and guidelines for teaching a variety of comprehension strategies. I’ve been using several of her ideas in my guided reading lessons. I love the last two paragraphs of the book:
Sometimes the pressure we teachers feel to improve test scores by using premade test-prep practice and worksheet packets can reduce student’s engagement with tasks and their motivation to work hard to achieve. Literary conversations and writing about reading are authentic tasks that research has shown improves learning in all subjects. 
Remember the research on fourth-grade teachers that Allington, Johnston, and Pollack Day (2002) conducted, concluding that it’s the teacher who makes the difference in students’ learning and achievement. You are the key to developing highly literate students! And when you make learning meaningful for students with literary conversations and writing about reading, you keep students at the center of instruction, inspiring them to read, think, talk, and write –and continually improve their reading and writing expertise!
This book will help you improve student engagement and motivation and give your practical tips for enhancing literary discussions during guided reading and beyond. I highly recommend it.

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of December 2nd

posted Dec 2, 2018, 5:40 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Dec 2, 2018, 5:41 PM ]

Engage in a Guided Reading Focused Professional Learning Community (PLC) as a Means to Impact Student Literacy Performance

As I deliver guided reading focused professional development around the country, I am often asked what are the next steps to improve student literacy performance. Amongst various suggestions, I discuss the need for regular engagement in Professional Learning Communities (DuFour & Mattos, 2013), which includes collaborative teacher conversations centered on student literacy data like running records, writing samples, word knowledge inventories and reading interest surveys. Questions pondered during such discussions include the following: What are the students’ strengths and needs? What are the implications for the design and implementation of guided reading? How can students serviced by more than one staff member be best supported, based on data? In a nutshell, ongoing engagement in a PLC is a powerful way to be responsive to Jan’s recommendation to “get to know your students” (October 21, 2018 Literacy Tip) and implement spot-on guided reading, which in the end can impact student literacy performance! 
Written by: Carolyn Gwinn, PhD, Educational Consultant and Author

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of November 18th

posted Nov 19, 2018, 4:37 PM by Courtney Richardson

Take the time to teach ALL of your students to be independent learners so you can teach a guided reading lesson without being interrupted. 

- If you have been teaching reading with whole-class instruction and are just now moving into small group lessons, your number one concern is going to be, “What are the other children doing?” You cannot begin guided reading at any grade level without teaching all students to be independent learners. What is the secret to successful reading workshop? 
- Teach routines and engage students in authentic literacy activities. Obviously, a worksheet isn’t going to work. 
- What works?  Reading and Writing.  Students should read self-select books on their own or with a buddy. 
- They should write. They could extend the writing they are doing in WW or write about books they’ve read or ones the you have read. 
- Connect literacy and content instruction. Children can read and write about the butterflies that are hatching in your room or what causes a volcano to erupt. No matter what grade level, teach students how to work independently or with a partner. Then you are free to teach guided reading!

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of November 11th

posted Nov 10, 2018, 8:17 AM by Courtney Richardson

GR is the best opportunity to scaffold comprehension and comprehension is the heart of reading; without comprehension, there is no reading.

The reading process the child builds even at the emergent stage, should involve comprehension. If we don’t involve comprehension from the beginning, it will be more difficult for some children to think about content later on. When you teach a child to monitor by saying, “Does that make sense,” you are teaching comprehension. Select a comprehension focus for each guided reading lesson and weave that focus into your discussion so children learn how to analyze a character’s motivation or reflect on the author’s purpose or theme. Remember reading is comprehension.

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of November 4th

posted Nov 4, 2018, 6:49 PM by Courtney Richardson

Take time to understand the reading process – it’s essential! Reading is a process of constructing meaning not just sounding out words.
I was a classroom teacher and a reading specialist for many years before I truly understood the reading process. My training as a RRTL changed my work with students. 
- It taught me how to carefully observe children and how to analyze their reading behaviors. 
- This helped me select prompts and teaching points that helped my students be better readers. 
- The first step in understanding the reading process is to learn how to take running records. 
- The second and even more important step is to learn how to analyze running records. By analyzing student errors, partially-correct responses, self-corrections, and other strategic actions, you get a window into a child’s processing system. 
- Then you will know how to prompt and what strategic action to teach.
- Grab every opportunity available to you so you can deepen your understanding of the reading process. 

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of October 28th

posted Oct 29, 2018, 7:40 AM by Courtney Richardson

Use text levels as a tool for selecting a book -- not for labeling a child. 
When I teach a guided reading lesson, I first consider the text level the publishing company assigned to the book. But then I look beyond the level to determine if this book is the right instructional tool for a specific group of students. Ask yourself these questions:
Does the book give students the opportunity to practice the focus strategy? 
Do they have adequate background knowledge to construct meaning?
Does the sentence structure match their language level? This is especially critical           for students who are learning English.
Also consider 
o known and unknown sight words
o vocabulary
o length
o plot, characters
o organization 
o illustrations
There is a lot to consider when choosing books for guided reading. Look beyond the level to select books that match your readers.

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of October 21st

posted Oct 21, 2018, 7:40 PM by Courtney Richardson

Use a variety of formative assessments and anecdotal notes to pinpoint a focus for instruction-- the most effective instruction responds to each child’s precise needs. 

I frequently take running records during my guided reading lessons to help me analyze the reader and prompt for more efficient processing. But I also recommend using writing samples, word knowledge inventories and reading interest surveys.  Get to know your students – their strengths and their needs. As you plan your GR lessons, write a strategy focus on your lesson plan. It will help you provide targeted instruction. Follow the curriculum during whole-group focus lessons, but during guided reading follow the child!

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of October 14th

posted Oct 14, 2018, 8:15 PM by Courtney Richardson

Choose slightly challenging texts- just enough to spark engagement and a “I can read this!” spirit. 

You may have heard that children should be reading easy books in guided reading, but that defeats the whole purpose of the lesson. 
- Children should read easy books during independent reading, when the teacher isn’t available to scaffold them. 
- During guided reading, students should encounter new vocabulary and some words that are tricky to decode so they can deploy a network of strategic actions to construct meaning. 
- I often tell teachers if the book is too easy and there is nothing to teach, you have just wasted 20 minutes of precious instructional time!

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of September 30th

posted Sep 30, 2018, 5:38 PM by Courtney Richardson

Weave word study instruction throughout your guided reading lesson. This helps your students develop efficient word solving strategies to construct meaning. 

A short but critical component of the Next Steps Guided Reading framework is word study where students learn about letters, sounds and words. 
- Many districts recommend phonics be taught to the whole-class, but not all children are ready to learn the same thing.
- By including word study in your guided reading lesson, you can provide developmentally-appropriate phonics instruction based on your students’ needs. 
- Additionally, teaching the word study during guided reading gives students opportunity to transfer the phonics skills they have learned into authentic reading and writing. 

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